Thursday, March 9, 2017

Research on Romantic Love

Love is a basic human emotion that connects human beings. Out of all the forms of love one of it is romantic love. A lot has been written over the ages about this form of love. If you are a movie fan, then you will find that romantic love is used to connect people movies. The movie makers use this human drive to make more people see their movies, as more people watching is directly proportional to the revenues generated by the movie.

But what does science say about romantic love. In a TED talk given by Dr. Helen Fisher a few years ago she mentioned how romantic love is much different from other forms of love. The FMRI scans of brain done of people who were involved in romantic love showed great amount of activity in that portion of the brain that is responsible for craving and focus.This is exactly the reason why you feel so strongly about the person with whom you are in love.The portion of the brain is called Ventral Tegmental Area(VTA). 

Since the part of the brain is also responsible for focus, you keep thinking about the person you are in love with all the time. This area of the brain is also responsible for craving. So romantic love is a wonderful feeling when things are going well, but when things are not going well it is equally horrible.

VTA essentially is the reward area of the brain. Now here is a catch, in her TED video on Romantic Love research, Helen Fisher mentioned that when someone is rejected in love, a greater amount of activity is shown in the VTA area. This explains why the rejected partners go through a period of anguish.
Here is her TED lecture given in 2006.

Here is the link to the Fisher's lecture given in 2014

Most of the stuff said in both the videos are pretty common. So it is clear that romantic love is not really an emotion, it is a drive as Helen Fisher mentions it. It evolved at the time of evolution of mammals, its a drive that makes you focus on one partner. 

Now that we know that the activity levels of VTA is responsible for the feelings and cravings that one experiences. So to overcome the negatives. Meditation is one way in which the activity of the brain can be controlled. VTA is the area of the brain that is responsible for expectations and cravings

This research will turn out to be invaluable in reducing the negative feelings that arises. When we start thinking in terms of VTA and not the heart, you will be able to control the levels of activity in your VTA and thus make romantic love a better experience. 

It is just figuring out the cure of a disease by knowing the cause of the disease and then working out a way to control the cause. The following points must be kept in mind:-

1) The cause of distress is craving, expectation. So having no expectation is a must. That reduces misery.

2) Since we know that it is the activity levels of the VTA that needs to be controlled. Hence following mind control practises like meditation is a must.  

Of course the research does not discourage romantic love. In of of the videos Fisher does mention that a world without love would be a dangerous place, but knowing how things happen makes life much easier. 

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